Dianne Kopec

Social Media:

  • Twitter: @noHginFish

Research Interests:

  • Mercury trends in sustenance fish in Penobscot tribal waters
  • Baseline mercury in Endangered sturgeon from the lower Penobscot River
  • Toxic contaminants in aquatic food webs

Research Projects:

Media Expertise:

  • Mercury contamination in fish, birds and marine mammals


  • Introduction to Wildlife Conservation
  • Conservation Biology


  • Ph.D. Biological Sciences, University of Maine – 2009
  • M.S. Environmental Management, University of San Francisco – 1987
  • B.S. Zoology, University of Iowa – 1978


Dianne is convinced that accurate contaminant monitoring is key to effective environmental policy protecting wildlife and human health. Her research documents toxic contaminants in wildlife using the interplay of an organism’s life history, ecology and behavior to evaluate contaminant exposures. Her past work included a ten-year study of the contaminant concentrations and health of the resident harbor seals of San Francisco Bay. Dianne’s graduate research in the Gulf of Maine examined foraging selection in harbor seals and the trophic transfer of mercury from prey fish to seals. As staff biologist to the Penobscot River Mercury Study she designed and ultimately led a multi-year monitoring program which documented mercury concentrations in fish, birds and lobster in the lower Penobscot River and upper Penobscot Bay.

She is presently collaborating with staff from the Penobscot Nation to generate species-specific information on fish mercury concentrations in waters of the Penobscot Nation. For decades, mercury contamination in Maine freshwater fish has denied members of the Penobscot Nation their legally protected sustenance fishing rights. The study, funded by the EPA Environmental Justice Small Grants Program, will identify fishing locations and species that minimize mercury exposure to tribal members, provide a template for contaminant studies in tribal waters across the U.S., and document the need for improvement in federal mercury emissions policy.

Selected Publications:

Kopec, A.D., K.A. Kidd, N.S. Fisher, M. Bowen, C. Francis, and K. Payne, R.A. Bodaly. 2019 Spatial and temporal trends of mercury in the aquatic food web of the lower Penobscot River, Maine, USA, effected by a chlor-alkali plant. Science of the Total Environment 649:770-791

Rudd, J.W.M., R.A. Bodaly, N.S. Fisher, C.A. Kelly, A.D. Kopec, C.G. Whipple. 2018. Fifty years after its discharge, methylation of legacy mercury trapped in the Penobscot Estuary sustains high mercury in biota. Science of the Total Environment. 642:1340-1352

Gilmour, C., J.T. Bell, A.B. Soren, G. Reidel, G. Reidel, A.D. Kopec, R.A. Bodaly. 2018. Distribution and biogeochemical controls on net methylmercury production in Penobscot River marshes and sediment. Science of the Total Environment 640-641:555-569

Turner, R.R., A.D. Kopec, M.A. Charette, P.B. Henderson. 2018. Current and historical rates of input of mercury to the Penobscot River, Maine, from a chlor-alkali plant. Science of the Total Environment. 637-638:1175-1186

Turner, R.R., C.P.J. Mitchell, A.D. Kopec, R.A. Bodaly 2018. Tidal fluxes and methymercury for Mendall Marsh, Penobscot River estuary, Maine. Science of the Total Environment 637-638:145-154

Kopec, A.D., R.A. Bodaly, O.P. Lane, D.C. Evers, A.J. Leppold, and G.H. Mittelhauser. 2018. Elevated mercury in blood and feathers of breeding marsh birds along the contaminated lower Penobscot River, Maine, USA Science of the Total Environment 634:1563-1579

Gilmour, C., T. Bell, A. Soren, G. Reidel, G. Reidel, D. Kopec, D, Bodaly, U. Ghosh. 2018. Activated carbon thin-layer placement as an in situ mercury remediation tool in a Penobscot River salt marsh. Science of the Total Environment. 621:839-848

Sullivan, K.M. and Kopec, A D. 2018. Mercury in wintering American Black Ducks (Anas rubripes) downstream from a point-source on the lower Penobscot River, Maine, USA. Science of the Total Environment 612: 1187-1199

Kopec, A.D. 2009. Prey selection in Gulf of Maine harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) in relation to prey fish abundance and mercury concentrations. (Doctoral dissertation, University of Maine) Available from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database (#3364706)

She, J., M. Petreas, P. Vista, M. McKinney, D. Kopec. 2001. PBDEs in the San Francisco Bay Area: Measurements in harbor seal blubber and human breast adipose tissue. Chemosphere. 46(5):697-707

Young, D., M. Becerra, D. Kopec, and S. Echols. 1998. GC/MS analysis of PCB congeners in blood of the harbor seal Phoca vitulina from San Francisco Bay. Chemosphere. 37(4):711-733

Kopec, A D. and J.T. Harvey. 1995. Toxic pollutants, health indices, and population dynamics of harbor seals in San Francisco Bay, 1989 – 1992. Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, Technical Report No. 95-023. Moss Landing CA. pp.182

Herz, M.J., and A.D. Kopec. 1985. Analysis of the Puerto Rican tanker incident: Recommendations for future oil spill response capability. Technical Volume No. 5, Romberg Tiburon Center for Environmental Studies. San Francisco State University, San Francisco CA